Jeffersonville is welcoming two new food and drink options to its historic downtown district.
For much of its 150-year history, the building at 134 Spring St. has been a bar and restaurant, including Third Base Tavern and Goodwood Brewing. But the building has been vacant since it caught fire in early 2020.
Joe Phillips saw it as an opportunity to make one of his dreams a reality. He’s spent recent months transforming the building into the Bavarian-themed Common Haus Hall.
“It’s going back to a place that has a dining room and something very home-like on the first floor,” said Phillips, who owns Pints & Union in New Albany. “A lot of German comfort foods — a lot of schnitzel and sausages, and a lot of these standard items with sauerkraut and all the things that come with it, with a big Bavarian German beer selection.”
Phillips said many of the components of the building, which dates back to the 1870s, are new but historically accurate. It has three stories and a large patio, which will allow Common Haus to host large events and receptions in addition to serving as a traditional restaurant.
But Phillips’ vision for Common Haus goes beyond its beer and food menu. He wants it to be a welcoming, communal space where people can learn more about the German influences on local Hoosier culture.
“I think teaching Americans about our history and reminding everyone that we all come from somewhere else, and that we all need to really pay more attention to being unified as a people —not as a political party or anything else — and having a place where you can go is the most important part for me,” Phillips said.
Common Haus Hall is expected to open by late December.
Just a few blocks away on Spring Street, the team behind the Alcove and the Bad Cat Boutique has opened a new eatery on the same block called Close Enough Café. Co-owner Chris Palmer said the idea started about two and half years ago, but the effects of the pandemic forced them to push the opening.
Now that Close Enough is open, Palmer said he hopes to create the same type of environment that his team built at the bar and art boutique.
“It looks and feels and conveys the same kind of aesthetic that we always wanted from that very inclusive space, that more often than not kind of appeals to some of the counterculture elements that exist in the downtown Jeff area,” he said.
Close Enough’s menu includes a variety of sandwiches and beverages, both caffeinated and alcohol-infused. The café will focus on breakfast and brunch items.
Palmer said the menus offer personal favorites, including dishes picked up during his time in New Orleans.
“We also have a lot of really cool old Southern recipes and spreads, and some of them are from my family,” he said. “Some of them are just things I ate in childhood, like our Thai pasta salad. We do a Benedictine with a really good cucumber and cream cheese spread, we do a spicy and mild pimento cheese, but my personal favorite is this black olive dip that my mom always had when I was a kid.”
Like Common Haus, Close Enough Café is located in a historic building, which dates back to the 19th century. Many similar buildings in Jeffersonville’s downtown were lost after the 1937 Ohio River flood.
That’s why Clark County historian Jeanne Burke is happy to see business owners bring new life to the structures that remain.
“There are many stories I’m sure that are connected to them,” Burke said. “That’s what it means to save a building, because when you tear it down, it leaves a hole in the fabric of the street and you lose the stories that were associated with it. You lose that little bit of history.”